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Group: City Not Worthy of Super Bowl

November 10, 1990|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A local activist group has written a letter to the NFL, charging that the city of San Diego is an "unacceptable" choice to host the 1993 Super Bowl because of its failure to pay proper tribute to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

San Diego "does not deserve to reap the reward" of the '93 Super Bowl since the city it would be replacing--Phoenix--may lose the game after Arizona's failure to designate a state holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader, a spokeswoman for the group said Friday.

"If the NFL has set the criteria that the game shouldn't be in Arizona because it failed to pay fitting tribute to Dr. King, then San Diego is hardly an appropriate choice," said Barbara Gartner of the Martin Luther King Tribute Coalition.

Gartner's group claims to have the backing of more than 70 community and "peace" organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women. The group mailed its letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Friday.

Gartner cited the city's failure to name "a park, a street, a building--anything--after Dr. King." She said the city re-named Market Street after King, then a 60% majority voted in Proposition F on the 1987 ballot, which changed the name back to Market Street.

She said the group was "promised" another tribute, which failed to materialize in the new San Diego Convention Center. The San Diego Unified Port District voted down a proposal to name that structure after King.

Paul Downey, spokesman for Mayor Maureen O'Connor, said Friday the group "may have the right" to protest, but he believes the city has paid proper tribute to King. Downey said a local recreation center was named for King and a scholarship fund established.

"California 94 has been named the Martin Luther King freeway, and the (Greater San Diego) Chamber of Commerce is raising funds to build a statue of King in Balboa Park," Downey said. "The city also observes the state holiday in honor of King."

Downey said the 28 NFL owners are scheduled to meet Wednesday in Dallas, where the Super Bowl question is not an agenda item. Even so, he said, Phoenix could then be eliminated as host, which Tagliabue advocated in a public announcement Wednesday.

Earlier this week, City Councilman Wes Pratt said he favors San Diego's bid to host the '93 Super Bowl and doesn't feel the city's controversies over the King issue warrant the game being played in Pasadena's Rose Bowl, for that reason alone.

Pasadena and San Diego are said to be the only cities in contention. Both finished behind Phoenix when the game was awarded to Arizona in March.

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